The No. 1 ranked Cedar Grove Saints rallied from behind five times to knock off No. 7 Rockmart 30-27 in thrilling fashion on the final play of the third overtime on Friday night at Rockmart to advance to the GHSA Class 3A High School Football State Quarterfinals for the sixth consecutive season.
Tied 24-24 after both teams missed field goals in the second overtime, Rockmart got the football first in the third overtime. Quarterback Javin Whatley who had a 260 yard passing game in the opening round dropped back to pass on first down and under pressure from a charging Saints defense threw incomplete at the four-yard line.
On second down the Saints dropped a Rockmart running back for a four-yard loss to force a third and 14 from the 19. Whatley was under pressure again on third down and threw long to bring out the field goal team for Rockmart.
Kicker Jose Alegria missed a potential game-winning 29-yard field goal in the second overtime connected from 36 yards to give Rockmart its fifth lead of the game at 27-24.
Cedar Grove had a third and one at the Rockmart six-yard, but Rockmart’s defense stuffed running back Rashod Dubinion to force a fourth and one with the game on the line. Dubinion who had rebounded from an early fumble with some big and tough runs for the final three quarters responded with a tough run for three yards to convert for the first down.
The Saints (4-4) went to a jumbo package and Dubinion (31 carries, 178 yards, 2 TDs) following the lead of his big blockers around right tackle for the game-winning, three-yard touchdown run.
Rockmart (10-2) jumped out to a 7-0 lead with a first quarter touchdown and took that lead to the half as both teams offense continued to stall in the second quarter.
Cedar Grove tied the game late in the third quarter as quarterback Austin Smith connected with Janiran Bonner for a 15-yard touchdown pass on a fourth and 12 play at the Rockmart 15. Louis Dominguez tied the game at 7-7 as he connected on the PAT.
Rockmart stalled on a drive deep in Cedar Grove territory with nine minutes to play in the game and went to Alegria who hit a 25-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.
The Saints answered with a Dominguez 37-yard field goal with 5:18 to play to knot the game at 10-10.
Whatley would make two scrambling plays on Rockmart’s answering drive including a 24-yard run after being flushed from the pocket. He followed with a 41-yard touchdown pass as he stepped up and through down the middle of the field. Rockmart looked in control up 17-10 with 2:52 to play.
Cedar Grove got big plays from its quarterback on its ensuing drive as Smith scrambled for a 15-yard gain and drew a personal foul for a late hit out of bounds to give Cedar Grove a first down at the Rockmart 14 with under a minute to play.
Smith appeared to have connected with Trevon Ferrell a touchdown on the first-down play but it was ruled incomplete. A second down pass went incomplete with 42 seconds to play putting the Saints in a third and 10. Smith dropped back looked left and came back right to Bonner in the right corner of the end zone for the score. Dominguez tied the game at 17-17 with his PAT with 38 seconds to play.
Rockmart moved the ball out to the 45, but Whatley slipped and fell as time ran out sending the game to overtime.
The ball went first to Rockmart to start overtime and on third and 14 Rockmart put it in the end zone to go up 24-17. Cedar Grove answered with Dubinion running three consecutive times, the third for a two-yard score to send the game into the second overtime.
The Saints missed a 28-yard field goal as they opened the second overtime and then forced Rockmart to go for a 29-yard field goal on fourth and 12 which went wide to set up the big third overtime.
Cedar Grove sets up a rematch of their state championship game of a year ago as they travel to No. 4 ranked Crisp County (10-1), a 36-0 road winner against No. 9 ranked Richmond Academy on Friday night.
DCSD IN GHSA STATE PLAYOFFS RESULTS
Friday, Dec. 4
CLASS 3A SWEET 16
Cedar Grove (4-4) 30, Rockmart (10-2) 27
DCSD IN GHSA STATE PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE
Friday, Dec. 11
CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
Cedar Grove (4-4) at Crisp County (10-1), 7:30 pm
Source: DCSD Athletics